Tunisia is making a fresh start with Europe. The new foreign minister chose Brussels for his first official visit abroad. There, Ahmed Ounaïs met the European Union’s top diplomat, Catherine Ashton. She reiterated the commitment of the bloc’s 27 member states.
Ounaïs said: “Europe has not delayed shouldering its responsibilities where Tunisia’s present and future are concerned. As a member of the new Tunisian government, after a period of despotic rule, here I am on my first foreign visit. I came here, and nowhere else, because Europe has decided to take its responsibilities towards us in hand.”
And yet the EU reacted cautiously when Tunisia’s revolt erupted.
European Parliament member Mario David regretted Europe did not swiftly speak with one voice: “It’s too bad, with the Lisbon Treaty having given the EU the basis of an effective external policy, to then not use it, with each country continuing to work for itself.”
MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit said: “European foreign policy was done with the member states, even if it concerned dictators oppressing people. That’s what has to be called into question. We see today what we’re asking Mrs Ashton to do is to really help people who are freeing themselves.”
United European diplomacy is also being put to the test elsewhere in the Middle East, with the political ground heaving in Egypt and Yemen.